Thursday 31 March 2011


On 11th March, the day that Sainsburys Local opened on West End Lane, Atlanta Food & Wine on West End Lane announced that it was closing. Our enquiries have confirmed that Cafe Nero, the national coffee chain, is to take over the property and are not likely to require planning permission for Change of Use since national case law allows it. I have asked Council Officers to identify the relevant case law and to advise where Camden's Food and Drink policy stands in relation to this, which prohibited further food and drink establishments being opened on West End Lane. A frequent complaint from residents is the lack of variety in shopping in West Hampstead with too many coffee shops already. The last thing needed is another national chain that will threaten the businesses of the local independents.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Getting the lowdown on all those West End Lane roadworks

Flick Rea and I did a walkabout with Camden council officers this morning to get an update on the progress of the various roadworks in Camden.

Before getting into the detail, quite a few people have asked us how Camden can afford to be doing this work when we’re hearing so much about cuts. The answer is that this work is being funded from this year’s budget, which is relatively speaking unaffected by the cuts, which really begin to bite in the next financial year, which starts in April.

We kicked off with a quick look at the West End Lane/Iverson Road corner. You can now see all the extra space that’s been freed up by demolishing the two corner shops, which is going to make that corner a lot safer for pedestrians. And if you stand on tip-toe and look over the fence you can see how incredibly wide the new Iverson Road pavement is going to be between West End Lane and the new Thameslink station due to open towards the end of the year. I don’t think any of the “artist’s impressions” we’ve seen so far make it clear just what a wide and open space this will be and just how different this part of our area will look. It should open up all sorts of interesting possibilities.

We also looked at the new surface on the Thameslink bridge, which mimics paving stones using an “imprint” technique. This is being used because bridges – and we have three along that stretch of West End Lane, including in front of West Hampstead tube station – are unsuitable for paving stones because there just isn’t room to accommodate paving stones and the sandbed they sit in together with all the utilities that have to be fitted in as well. But the “imprint” finish is pretty impressive and will also be used in front of the tube station.

Don’t be fooled by the rather messy finish at West Hampstead tube station entrance at the moment, it’s just work in progress and should look a lot better when it’s finished. The area in front of the station also feels a lot more spacious now the railings have been removed.

Various other work is going on, and one aspect that will be very welcome is a slight widening of the pavement in front of the “Paramount building”, where the narrow pavement has been a bone of contention ever since the building was erected. It’ll only be slightly wider, but as our supermarket friends up the road say “every little helps”. The same applies to a slight widening of the pavement on the Thameslink bridge on the other side of the road.

The other main point we discussed was the removal of the traffic lights at the junction of Mill Lane and West End Lane, which are being replaced by two zebra crossings – in fact going back to the way things were before the lights were installed six or seven years ago. When Camden consulted on this proposed removal, opinions were divided, but a key factor in the decision to remove the lights was that they were put into improve safety for Emmanuel School, who feel they made things worse rather than better.

It's frustrating that in some places the new pavements won't be as good as we'd like because they adjoin forecourt owned by the adjacent shops, but we've encouraged Camden to do the best they can in those circumstances. It's good they're managing to relocated some of the irritatingly located black boxes, particularly the one just in front of Costa Coffee.

So there’s a lot going on at the moment between the tube station and Mill Lane, but we hope that when it’s all finished it will feel worthwhile.